Reading Rediscovered by Kim Koehler
Some speak for equations and numbers. Some speak for pens and thoughts. Others speak for stories and pictures. Though we all speak for something different, words are the common thread. I imagine that even those math folks need words every now and again. I know that as I pretend to be a writer, I use them too. At my inner core however, I relish to sit in the words of others, take them in, and use them to branch out into the world.
In the pages of a book, a child discovers possibility and wonder, which then becomes a lifelong commitment to losing herself amongst the words. A most vivid memory of resting my head on my desk and listening to my third grade teacher read Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, resonates to this day. Outside that read aloud, in the other five hours and forty minutes a day, reading hurt. It wasn’t until a book pushing angel got me to the library to get lost in the stacks, that I found my inner core. I devoured the author’s words and reveled in them. It wasn’t about how I sounded when I read out loud. It wasn’t about what I said about what I read. These stories were for me and me alone. It was about how the books made me feel. It was about how my thoughts soared after reading those words. It was about how my pen hit the paper copying a phrase, an idea, a thought, in the highest of compliments. Trip after trip to the stacks, night after night of hiding under the sheets with a flashlight, I became a reader.
My book count back then was dependent only on me. Well, me and my bike and my mom who was willing to pay the exorbitant fines owed to the public library. As long as I could get lost in a book and recharge, I could make it through the tumultuous years ahead.
Not so funny then that I would later find myself attached to someone who has words running through his veins. Except that his words are of the musical variety and all his input is auditory. Read he does not. As much as I have to try to catch his attention when he’s listening to music, he must do the same when I am completely enraptured in words. It can be endlessly frustrating, with all the obligations and such that being a grown up requires, to find time for what recharges us.
Enter a little being and here we each feel this enormous all-encompassing obligation to bestow upon her the love of words. My husband and his musical self aside, I subscribe to the belief that to grow as a reader you must be surrounded by the written word. Such is why we have books in the bedrooms, books in the office, books in the (ahem) bathroom, books in the basement, books in our purses, books on our tablets, and books meandering up the stairs. This child will read, I have been telling myself since she was a bean in my belly.
So her reading life became my reading life. We read every silly, funny, all-around nutty book we could get our hands on. We read every sweet, touching, adorable story we could find. But I struggled to find that book. That one that would change her life like so many had changed mine. The one that would reveal her core as a reader. Turns out, that isn’t my book to find.
I decided that instead of trying to give her the same experiences that helped me, I would instead reveal to her my reading life as she is developing hers. This was something that I had laid by the wayside due to this all-encompassing responsibility of being a mom and wife. I started reading for myself again. I started showing her my favorites and let her see me post about them on social media and talk to others about them even though it sometimes makes me uncomfortable. I vented aloud about my complete lack of desire to read nonfiction and about a book matching friend that found the perfect segues into that particular genre. I started mixing my reads in with hers in all those spots you trip over books in our house. I started reading side by side with my daughter and one of the happiest moments I can recall is having to call her name over and over again to pull her out of a book.
My husband knows how important it is to me to instill in her the need to read. I know he could easily get mad at the heaping mounds of dishes. I know that he sighs with my absent-minded responses when I am forced away from a story to take part in this family gig I’ve got going on. He sighs as he trips over all those books and groans when we walk through the door with even more. Yet I also know that he helps explains to our daughter how mommy could want to read yet another book. I notice when he sweeps her away to play games so I can read in peace when I need to. I stand outside her room and listen to him read to her at bedtime, with expression and zest mind you. I know that he may not feel the same way I do, but he knows how important this is.
Reading recharges me. Music recharges him. They both will give our daughter the brightest of futures.
Kim Koehler is a Literacy Coach near Chicago. You can find her running between kindergarten and sixth grade, always with a stack of books in hand. When not squeezing in pockets of time to read, she is most likely sleeping or posting about books on social media.
Kim- loved your piece. It took me back to riding my bike to the local library.
You have a lucky daughter!
Hello, Mrs. Koehler! I stumbled upon your blog today and really enjoyed reading through it. I am currently studying critical literacy and its effect on children’s thinking. Your blog sounds like you are passionate about literacy and understanding to how critical it is to get your daughter to that same place in terms of reading for comfort and cause. I am a lot like you! I have a husband who does music and a daughter, who like me loves to read! I have a son also, who is just now (at the age of 9) finding books to read for enjoyment. Critical literacy means using opportunities to use language in powerful ways to get things done in the world. I am a teacher and I can tell you from experience that is not enough to simply teach kids how to read. I think it is such an important piece to get kids reading at home, and thinking about their roles in life and how to create change when warranted. I recently watched a podcast about the series for Diary of a Wimpy Kid and never really thought about the books as a way to get kids to relate to the everyday issues they face in social settings. It is wonderful that you have given your daughter the example of reading and the freedom to find the life-changing book on her own that you found for yourself. Although you are just one person making a huge difference in your daughter’s life, it will have a trickling effect on others around her as she grows into her adult life. Anyway, I really enjoyed your blog and look forward to reading more in the future!!